Upright posture increases oxyhemoglobin saturation in Peruvian highlanders

Rafael S. Arias, Branden Etienne, Vsevolod Y. Polotsky, William Checkley, Alan R. Schwartz, Luu V. Pham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


At high altitude, hypoxia amplifies oxyhemoglobin saturation (SPO2) swings with changes in respiratory mechanics. Our objective was to examine the effects of posture on SPO2 and determine predictors of postural SPO2 changes in highlanders. 50 native highlanders from Puno, Peru (3825 m) assumed supine and upright-seated postures, in rotating sequence, while undergoing continuous pulse-oximetry. We compared mean SpO2 in each posture with a paired t-test. We examined associations of BMI, age, sex and spirometry with postural SpO2 changes with mixed-effects linear regression. In highlanders, SpO2 was 84% in the supine posture and was 1.0% ± 1.1 (p < 0.0001) greater in the upright-seated posture. Greater postural changes in SpO2 were associated with older age (p = 0.01 for interaction) but not with sex, BMI, FVC or FEV1. In highlanders, SpO2 is higher in the upright-seated compared to supine posture, especially with older age. Because we generally sleep flat, posture may contribute significantly to highlanders’ hypoxemic burden during sleep. Postural intervention during sleep may mitigate nocturnal hypoxemia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)138-143
Number of pages6
JournalRespiratory Physiology and Neurobiology
StatePublished - Aug 2019


  • Altitude
  • Andean
  • Global health
  • Hypoxia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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